December 26, 2008

Chicago Express

ChicagoExpress.jpgWe've been covering some of the larger board game releases from Fantasy Flight Games in the modern Ameircan style, well here's one from the Eurogame arm of modern gaming. Chicago Express [Funagain] takes stock holding and profit elements from Imperial and mashes them with a Railroad Tycoon theme, and then deep fries them with the social elements of Diplomacy to make a very engaging rail road builder that's simple to learn, fast to play, and becomes deeper upon iterative plays. Plus it's great with sprinkled sugar.

Players fulfill the role of investors during the early years of the American rail expansion. The setting pits multiple companies as they race to connect the East Coast of the United States to the then effectively 'western American capital' city of Chicago. Each company's rail line have various traits - some have a straight path to Chicago but incur higher risks and may be cut off by other competing rail lines, while other companies have to construct a longer route but are a safer bet to see their way through to Chicago if given enough time.

Players don't control just one company, but buy shares in various companies. Then, each player takes a turn that acts in the name of a specific company. So if a player has invested money into the blue rail line, then they may want to spend their turn furthering their interest with the blue company, for instance.

But putting all your eggs in one basket is a sure fire way to dig yoruself into a whole. Other players could swoop in and buy shares of the blue conpany just before it reaches chicgo, or perhaps control another company's route to cut-off and force the blue line to take a much longer and costly path.

In this way it's a great idea to diversify and then react as the play ensues. And because you're both cooperating with common stock holders given your investments in a set of companies, but are also in direct competition to win the game against the other players, meta games containing numerous layers of Subterfuge a misdirection also develop. This keeps the replayability very high.

While Chicago Express may not be as approachable as Settlers of Catan, or Ticket to Ride, or Carcassonne, it definitely is on our shortlist as one of our favorite Eurogames to come along quite a while. The short playtime (under and hour), the scalability of the title up to 6 players, and the replayability make Chicago Express a great title to add to your game stack.

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Posted by Critical Gamers Staff at December 26, 2008 2:50 PM

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